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Why Did You Think You Had To Be An Artist To Draw

By Carrie Baughcum

I had just spent forty-five minutes on Zoom sharing, teaching, writing, and doodling all about sketchnoting. But before my time with these 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders was done, it was time for questions. The Zoom screen went from a grid of twenty faces to one face. The brown hair, brown eyed, rainbow polka dot bow wearer with hot pink, circled glasses looked at me.

“Hi,” the student greeted me.

I smiled and asked,” Do you have a question for me?”

“Why did you think you had to be an artist to draw,” she asked.

I replied like I always do. Repeating a story I share often in sessions when talking about my own journey with drawing. I told how grown up with a belief that only artists, professional artists, shared their drawings. That my mind had told me that only someone who calls themself an artist should ever share a drawing. So if you are sharing what you drew it had better be perfect.

She looked at me, blinked, and politely thanked me for my answer to her question.

The session ended. Her question swirled through my head one more time before bed. “Silly how she asked that question. Especially when its answer in one of the first things I always talk about,” I thought

The next morning came. I showered and got ready for work. As I blew dry my hair, there was her question again in my head, nudging at me. “Why would that have been her question, when she knew that I had answered it,” I still wondered.

As I put the finishing touches on my hair I froze. “I know why,” I said out loud to myself as I looked at myself in the mirror.

In this 3rd grader’s mind drawing was intertwined in all parts of her day, from showing understanding to telling a story or doodling a rainbow filled, imaginary creature for fun. In her world drawing was not something that is judged, critiqued, or only to be done by someone with a certain training or title. In her world drawings were for everyone, meant to fill pages, margins, and blank spaces of pages whenever an idea, learning, or connection was inspired. Most of all, this 3rd grader had never been told that her drawings were anything but amazing parts of her learning and imagination.

She could not fathom living with thoughts or beliefs of any different. And I hope she NEVER changes. But she will, I thought.

It is usually inevitable.

School changes after 3rd grade. The curriculum becomes more complex, more text base and more inferential. Drawings that were once woven as interchangeably as words slowly stop being included or accepted. Soon the only time a student gets to draw in school is a special project or art class when the stakes are high and quality is expected. Until the only time they draw is to be judged, critiqued, or graded on their product and not the process that produced it.

Two questions I cling to, hug tight, and strive to answer as often and in as many different ways as I possibly can are:

How can we keep students from losing their love of drawing and what can we do to re-develop their love of drawing once it is lost?

How can we keep students from losing their love of drawing?


  • Resist the urge and stop judging the quality of student’s drawings

  • Ask students to tell you about the drawing, “ Tell me about that [point to drawing]”

  • Ask students to share their drawing process with you, “I love that drawing! Tell me about what made you draw it.”

  • Build questions into your teaching that will force students to share their imaginations and visualization of material

  • Exercise their visualizing and drawing skills by making imagining, drawing, and sharing learning through drawing part of your lessons (and often)

  • Show your students moments of vulnerability, fearlessness and that your class is a risk safe place by picking up a marker and drawing to show your teaching

  • Sit with your students, chat, and draw together


What can we do to re-develop a love for drawing or build an understanding for why it is a tool worth having?


  • Give students time, as much as they need with drawing

  • Give students words, positive words about their drawings and thinking to fill them up

  • Give students experiences, to build skills and believe they can

  • Add icons to learning (icons are the simple images we draw of what we imagine

  • Use containers to anchor or organize learning (containers are shapes the hold information)

  • Color Coding

  • Margins of the Paper are wonderful places to fill with icons about learning and connections made

  • Sketchnote as groups

  • Teach them why drawing (doodling) our learning is a powerful skill to have

  • Make doodling and sharing learning through drawing a part of your lessons (a simple doodle in the margin will do)

  • Show your students moments of vulnerability, fearlessness and that your class is a risk safe place by picking up a marker and drawing to show your your teaching

  • Sit with your students, chat and draw together


As I add the last link to my list, my two questions swirl through my head one more time,“how can we keep students from losing their love of drawing?”, “what can we do to re-develop their love of drawing once it is lost?” and I can’t help but think if there is one more question I need to add. “What will you do now that you know?”

About the Author

Carrie Baughcum

Instagram: @carrie_baughcum

Facebook: @heckawesome

Carrie Baughcum (she/her/hers) is a mother, wife, mismatched sock wearer, a self described inspiration junkie and most of all a believer that all children can learn, we just need to find out how. She is currently a teacher of 6th/7th/8th students who receive support and services through their IEP. Carrie uses her 22 years of experience to bring creative thinking, a fearless attitude, endless doodles, and the power of technology to enable her students to access information, enhance their learning and empower them to achieve things they never knew they could. Carrie writes about her ideas and passion in her first book- My Pencil Made Me Do It: A Guide To Sketchnoting and in her second book- Stanley and The Very Messy Desk: An Adventure in Sketchnoting. She shares on her blog-, her youtube channel, Doodle and Chat with Friends and when speaking at conferences.

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